Animals and Engines – By Rhys Bartlett – Mixed Core 2017
We awoke, for the first time in 3 weeks, in the confines of our own tents at Quest. We had earned this Sunday after our long arduous trek from particular misty Mtshabezi followed by a successful bar night, a day of rest and recovery was well in in order. This welcome release was accompanied by the arrival of the Men’s Core. They brought a complete change in atmosphere with them to camp; through loud music and a cacophony of voices, their inviting and good spirited nature put us at ease about our time here at Quest.
Monday saw the development of what routinely would happen for the coming weeks at Quest. A routine was a welcome change after the past weeks of travelling back and forth with little idea of what would be expected of us at the given location. This week we were separated groups for the completion of two acumens; natural acumen, directed by Mr. Macdonald and the technical acumen, directed by Mr. Davies. Monday also had the added bonus of yoga with Sister Bryant. Many gained enlightenment either from the poses or the culmination of pain and stiffness brought on by the trek. Some were just inflexible; Somerset’s joints were audibly taking strain throughout the session.
With our intake divided into groups for the acumen, I couldn’t help but feel some separation anxiety as we really hadn’t been apart for too long in the previous week and some days felt like certain people had dropped off the face of the earth.
The natural acumen saw us hurtle from place to place in the back of Mr. Macdonald’s yellow Land Rover with the frequent slamming of breaks to observe a shift in geology and therefore plant life as well to catch a brief glimpse of a bird flying through the thicket. For a man who wears coke bottles for glasses to read a page of a book in front of his nose, the man can spot a bird in full swoop at a hundred yards and single breath recount the scientific and common of any given bird and species of tree or bush as well as a lovely anecdote to accompany. I thoroughly enjoyed the natural acumen and my time spent with Mr. MacDonald exploring what the vast school grounds have to offer. His passion for nature is evident as even a mine dump, a noticeable eyesore in this area, is made wonderful by Mr. MacDonald as he explains what importance it holds as a habitat.
The technical acumen, in all its glory, was greasy, grimy and full to the brim of practical experience. We shadowed Mr. Davies as well as Silus and Jabu, our mechanical mentors who quickly put us to work where we learned the fine inner workings of an engine; taking it apart and putting it back together. The complexity is enough to make one’s head spin in the beginning but as the days progressed we could confidently point out specific parts when asked by our mechanical mentors. We were also tasked with the full services of the Quest cars, a task that at first was daunting but with practice became easier. We were glad to complete the technical acumen and with Mr. Davies we were permitted access to the workshop as Land Rovers needed repairing, cars needed servicing and mechanical projects always needed a helping hand being built.
Sadly the Men’s Core had to leave to Botswana, we said brief goodbyes to friendly faces and Daniel’s delicious baked goods, of which we had grown quite fond of during our shared time at Quest. We’ll miss them.
With the weekend here we look forward to some rest and preparation for the coming week where we will complete our hunting and cooking courses. The hunting group prepares for departure this Sunday.